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Juvenile dinosaur grave unearthed -

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Juvenile dinosaur grave unearthed

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 March , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

ELEANOR HALL: In the rocky desert of Inner Mongolia, an international team of palaeontologists has
unearthed a mass grave of young dinosaurs.

The herd of around 25 bird-like dinosaurs is thought to have died a slow and painful death after
getting stuck in a mud flat.

The scientists say the find provides a rare snapshot of dinosaurs' social behaviour, as the
youngsters appear to have been roaming entirely on their own.

Barbara Miller has our reports.

BARBARA MILLER: The Chinese-American team of palaeontologists is likening this find to the
discovery of the Roman city of Pompeii, because they say it's so rare to find a group of dinosaurs
who died at the same time from the same cause.

The discovery stirred new emotions in David Varricchio, assistant professor of palaeontology at
Montana State University.

DAVID VARRICCHIO: This is one of the, well it's the only location I've ever worked at where I
actually felt sympathy for the animals. So I could actually see how they died, and that made me
feel remorse for the pain that they might have undergone while they perished.

BARBARA MILLER: The death of the group of around 25 dinosaurs was indeed slow and painful.

DAVID VARRICCHIO: There's a couple lines of evidence that indicate that they were on the shores of
a drying lake or a little pond. So we think that they were entrapped in the mud. But they may have
been weakened by drought conditions and basically died by a combination of starvation, dehydration
and being basically too weak to remove themselves from the mud.

BARBARA MILLER: Do you think that they were existing, were living in this area, and somehow got
trapped there?

DAVID VARRICCHIO: Yeah, I think they were drawn there, given drying conditions, that this may have
represented the last source of water in the area, and that they were drawn to what they may have
known as a source of water, but found it instead to be a quagmire of mud.

BARBARA MILLER: The scientists are describing the group of dinosaurs, aged between one and seven,
as juveniles.

And they say the fact that they appeared to be off roaming together provides rare and important
insights into social behaviour.

DAVID VARRICCHIO: Parents that are going to reproduce eggs each year would be devoted to you know,
mating, constructing a nest, laying eggs, care of those eggs and care of the young, those
hatchlings, so that the young, or basically the previous year's young, would be off on their own
forming social groups of juveniles, non-breeders.

BARBARA MILLER: The scientists say the site also provides them with detailed knowledge of even the
tiniest bones of the dinosaurs.

As a result, they say, the bird-like Sinornithomimus dongi species is destined to become one of the
best understood dinosaurs in the world.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.